Dwight Howard is taking the next step towards returning to action. He is returning to Washington to start on-court work after spending the last three months rehabbing from back surgery, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Although it’s unclear what the timetable is to get Howard from on-court work to back on the floor for NBA games, that he’s back in town suggests both sides are hopeful he can get to that point before the end of the season. If he’s cleared to play, then the big question will shift to what role he’ll play on the team going forward.
There’s no question the team can use his rebounding prowess. He averaged 13.0 rebounds per 36 minutes, even in a limited state because of his back issues. That’s over two rebounds more than any other player on the roster. He also averaged 18.0 points per 36 minutes with a .638 true shooting percentage, the third-best percentage on the roster behind Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis.
Washington went 4-5 with Howard in the lineup, although the team performed better with him off the court (+6.4 net rating) than when he was on floor (-8.8 net rating). There is plenty of room for improvement with those numbers now that Howard’s healthy. However, he won’t be playing 25 minutes per game like he did before he had surgery. Thomas Bryant’s emergence and the Wizards’ small lineups will cut into his playing time.
It’s probably too late for Howard to impact the Wizards’ playoff push, but getting him on the floor can be helpful for Howard and Washington as they plan for the future. If Howard plays well, perhaps there’s still a chance he can drum up enough interest to opt out of his $5.6 million player option for next season. If not, at least Washington can get a better sense of how he fits into their plans moving forward.